<
>

Fear of Tony Romo injury shouldn't make Cowboys reach for quarterback

IRVING, Texas -- At the gym this week, a stranger said Tony Romo is as fragile as a china doll. At church, a parishioner insisted Romo wouldn't play more than eight games, if that.

And at an Easter brunch, a local politician shook his head vigorously at the notion of Romo as the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback for the 11th consecutive season.

Everybody, it seems, wants the Cowboys to take a quarterback with the fourth pick in the NFL draft after watching Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore go 1-11 in 12 starts. Listen to fans and read enough comments on social media, and it’s clear folks want Romo’s eventual replacement taken in the draft.

The problem with obsessing over drafting a quarterback this season is twofold.

First, folks assume the Cowboys won't draft this high anytime soon, so they need to take a quarterback to secure their future because no one can forget the five miserable seasons between Troy Aikman's retirement and Tony Romo's emergence.

Second, many of you assume the soon-to-be 36-year-old Romo will miss a bunch of games in 2016 because he missed 12 games and parts of two others last season.

Try again. Each of those viewpoints is flawed.

If there's a quarterback worthy of the fourth pick, then the Cowboys should certainly take him. If not, then they must pass. One of the easiest ways to wreck a franchise is to reach for a quarterback in the first round.

Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are each good examples of why the Cowboys shouldn't draft a quarterback, just because they need a backup for Romo.

If the three highest-rated quarterbacks in the 2016 draft fail to become stars, no one will be shocked. North Dakota State's Carson Wentz is probably the most physically gifted, but he has spent his entire career playing against inferior competition. Do you trust him to evolve into Steve McNair or Joe Flacco?

California quarterback Jared Goff had 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions against UCLA, USC, Oregon, Stanford and Utah, and 32 touchdowns and five interceptions against every other opponent. At 6-foot-7, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch played in a spread offense that makes you wonder how long it will take him to adjust to the pro-style offenses of the NFL.

There's never a guarantee in an inexact science such as drafting quarterbacks, but we expect some players such as Andrew Luck, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger to play to their pedigree.

With Wentz, Goff and Lynch, all you have is an educated guess. No more.

Romo broke his collarbone twice last season and missed 12 games. In the previous four seasons, he had played in 62 of 64 games, and in his first nine seasons as a starter, Romo missed a total of 15 games. He missed 10 of those games in 2010, when he broke his collarbone the first time.

He missed three games with a broken finger in 2008 and one game each with a back injury in 2012 and 2013.

Romo has played with a punctured lung and a creaky back. No questions exist about his toughness, and he’s really not the fragile player he’s perceived to be. Aside from when he breaks a bone, you can find him in the starting lineup.

None of his issues last season had to do with his back, a positive sign. This is a violent game and injuries will forever be a part of it. But Romo isn’t missing games with chronic injuries.

Only Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer have been NFL starters longer than Romo.

It's unlikely Romo is going to play the four or five seasons owner Jerry Jones hopes he plays, but he will start next season.

The Cowboys would like to get their quarterback of the future in this draft, but there’s no need to force the issue. They still have time.